Frustration in Houston (And Elsewhere)

It was Friday, and the last day of January 2014. On my way home from my day job I was listening to the evening drive time show on our local independent radio station KSEV 700.  Because Dan Patrick, one of the station’s long time hosts and a member of the Texas Senate, was running for Lt. Governor, another long time host and financial advisor, Lance Roberts, has taken over the slot.  He mixes economics with political and social issues, which makes for an entertaining and informative mix.


The post mortem on the “state of the union” had been winding down all week and one conversation concluded that only “new; idea that had been suggested was the new retirement account option dubbed “My RA” (Apologies, if I didn’t spell it right, but even Obama didn’t know how to pronounce it.)  Lance Roberts had an interesting comment; he had been interviewed by about 15 different media entities for his reaction to the proposal.  He informed them of his conclusion that the proposal was valueless because the majority of people were living paycheck to paycheck, and, as a result, there was nothing for them to save.  The media reps were not happy, but Roberts is correct; if you don’t have any money to save because of a stagnant economy, then what good is a new savings account.


The program took another turn when another caller expressed frustration over the political situation.  The public seems generally unhappy with the direction government and the nation is going.  Obamacare is now a certified train wreck, but the Republican Party top brass is running away from that fact, and concentrating, instead, on promoting “immigration reform” as if it is the answer to all out national problems.  It isn’t.


As Lance was quick to point out, we have to lowest labor force participation rate since 1879 and the economy is stagnant.  Job growth and consumer confidence are at recession levels and the government wants to dump another 11-20 million people, legally, into the economy?  It will just add to the competition for low-end jobs, making opportunities for entry-level workers that much more difficult.  Quite aside from that, because the people are already here, any additions to aggregate demand that they would be responsible for are already built into the present economic equation.  Legalizing them won’t create any tangible economic benefit.  It is all a red herring.


What remained was the question of why the politicians appear unwilling to grab onto the apparent winning hand of going against DC business as usual and riding the Tea Party wave to victory.  It is as if the Republican Party leadership doesn’t want to win.  Meanwhile, since the Tea Party “revolution” of 2010, the whole movement has lost momentum, partly due to IRS persecution and partly due to Republican antagonism.  Now, everything seems stalled out and unable to make progress.  No one seems to have a concrete answer as to what can break the doldrums that appears to have seized Main Street America.


It was easy to agree with the assessment, and it appears that the situation cannot be traced back to the old, silent majority explanation that Middle America is just too busy with their jobs, families, etc., to do anything.  After all, they did a lot in 2009 and 2010 and there have been sparks of dissent and activism in different areas such as northern Colorado ever since.  There has to be something else involved.


If nothing is happening in situation where something, in theory, should, then it appears likely that there is an ingredient missing; a catalyst that could set a potential avalanche in motion, or at least get something started that would make a difference; that would make some of the political office holders sit up and take notice.


What is missing isn’t something that it is easy to predict.  In fact, it is likely that there are a large number of possible scenarios that could develop.  However, what is most likely necessary is an unexpected move by someone or something that will capture the imagination of enough of the public that they will restart the activity of 2010.  It is also likely that whoever undertakes this action will have to be large and powerful enough that they cannot be ignored.  Thus, General Paul Vallely’s recent call to action, while well intentioned, was simply not big enough or capable of making what we might call real headlines.  Thus, it wasn’t going to get anything done.


Looking back on the history of the Republic, both the people and the states, as sovereign entities, were expected to act as bulwarks against federal over-reach.  As things presently exist it appears that the states are the entities that must stand firm now, or the result will be capitulation to the federal blob, that threatens to devour us all.


So, just for fun, consider the following scenario:  Texas, which has always had a strong nationalist streak, decides that it has to draw the line.  Because the federal monstrosity has decided that the rule of law and the Constitution are meaningless, then the states should not be bound by federal edicts any more than the feds are.  Therefore, newly elected governor Greg Abbot declares that Texas will no longer allow federal agents to operate within the state unless the Texas government agrees they are acting in the best interest of the people of the state.  This isn’t secession, but merely a declaration of state sovereignty over its own territories and nullification of federal law that is not in the state’s best interest.  One first step could be a declaration that Obamacare will not be considered valid law within the state of Texas.  In the realm of medical matters Texas is somewhat unique in having the Houston Medical Center district, making Houston the largest concentration of hospital facilities per square mile in the entire world.  Thus, Texas has an unique interest in maintaining the integrity of the medical system as an entity separate from and uncontrolled by political winds.


Assuming that such a move was made, it would certainly make headlines and be unprecedented since 1861.  The mainstream press would have to take notice, as would Washington DC.  There would be no way to ignore a move this radical.  It would be very likely that given the massive unpopularity of Obamacare the public in other states would end up clamoring for similar moves.  What would follow in DC would likely be a storm of activity by the legislators to follow the popular sentiment.  It would put the executive branch in a major bind.


Will it happen?  Probably not, but without something that has an impact this significant it is unlikely that the political gridlock will be broken.

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